Have you ever met a salad fanatic? Someone who is so completely consumed with salads that they anticipate their salad at a restaurant the way most people anticipate steak? Someone who surveys the produce department like a cat surveys a bird feeder – looking for tasty morsels to light up their taste buds and, thereby, world?
Well. You’ve met one now.
Obsessed. I am completely obsessed with salads of all kinds – tossed, potato, gelatin, pasta, fruit, bean… you name it, I’m there. I am SO there.
My particular “problem” occurred to me recently when my husband took me out for lunch at a wonderful steak house. My reaction to and enjoyment of my salad equaled his reaction to and enjoyment of his steak.
Truth be told, if I could – at this very moment – either have my steak or salad magically appear in front of me, I’d take the salad. And his too if he didn’t mind. I’d trade my steak for it.
Not only are salads ridiculously beautiful (if done right) and ridiculously delicious (if done right) – they’re ridiculously healthy.
If done right.
I’ve always had a section on the food blog for salads, salad recipes, and good old-fashioned salad love, but I’m (even as we speak… okay, I’m the only one speaking, aren’t I?… make that even as I speak) throwing a lot more energy and emphasis into salads.
There are a number of reasons, a few of which are:
- We all need to eat healthier. Salads are, primarily, made up of vegetables and fruit – things we should eat A LOT more of. Salads are the IDEAL way to go about it. Ever stop to think how many servings of vegetables and fruits you can consume each day if you simply ate more salads?
- Salads are the perfect “side” to just about any meal. They’re inexpensive to make, healthy, colorful, and delicious. And don’t add a ton of calories.
- Salads can be the perfect “main” dish for any meal. If you add a little protein (hard boiled eggs, turkey, chicken..) to the vegetables, you turn a classic side into a classic main course.
- Salads are pretty! Okay, so this reason may be a “girly” one, but I don’t care. They ARE pretty and I like that.
- The options are endless. Honestly, you could, literally, come up with different combinations each and every time you had a salad.
- Salads are perfect for those of us with food allergies and intolerances. So many of us have food allergies and food intolerances these days – it’s a great comfort to know there are foods that are usually safe for all of us. You simply don’t add anything to your salad that causes you problems. Special note, if you’re gluten intolerant or have a wheat allergy – when you’re in a restaurant, be sure you tell your server that you don’t want any croutons. If, like me, you’re extra sensitive, let them know you can’t have any salad that has come into contact with croutons.
The tossed salad at the top of the post is a great example of combining delicious flavors with healthy foods. I love to use a mixture of greens in the tossed salads I make at home. Romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce, iceberg lettuce (it may get a bad rep with food snobs, but I love the freshness and crunch it brings to the party) – any kind of lettuce you can find is perfect. The magic, however, is in combining several in one salad.
In addition to lettuces, I have gotten to the point that I simply do not make a tossed salad with strips of kale! Kale is uncommonly healthy and I’m crazy about what it adds to a salad. Same can be said of spinach, of course, but kale happens to be my personal favorite.
In addition to these, a few other personal favorite tossed salad ingredients are:
- black olives
- carrots (either shredded or sliced)
- tomatoes (but I have a strict rule with tomatoes in my salads – they can only be added at the last minute – otherwise, I don’t like the effect they have on the rest of the ingredients)
- canned baby corn
- mild banana peppers
- roasted red peppers
- green, yellow, orange, or red peppers
- green onions
- green olives
- green chilies
- hard-boiled eggs
- “mostly” thawed frozen green peas
- black beans
- kidney beans
- and on and on and on…
A few favorite Gluten Free toppings for tossed salads are:
- chia seeds
- sunflower seeds
- Frito’s Corn Chips
- dried cranberries
- crumbled potato chips
- small fried tortilla strips
- gluten free bread, butter, toasted, seasoned and cubed
- onion rings (coated with gluten free flour instead or all purpose flour)
- crumbled bacon
- freshly shredded cheese – experiment with different cheeses (cheddar, white cheddar, Asiago, Swiss, Monterrey Jack, Colby, Parmesan…)
- fresh cracked black pepper
- sea salt (or Kosher)
Chia seeds are a delicious way to sneak in a little extra nutrition. Kids will just think they’re fun, they’ll never suspect how healthy they actually are.
Tomorrow we’ll pay homage to the greatness that is a Wedge Salad. Beautiful, delicious, and oh so very, very cheap!
What are your own favorite salad ingredients and toppings? Share in the comments!
P.S. Whether it’s for salads or ANYTHING, don’t buy shredded cheese, buy the blocks and shred it yourself, as needed. It is SO much better this way – trust me.